I just watched a TED video from 2013 that highlighted the research of a pair of local high school scientists (Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao) and it has inspired me to post about uncertainty.
Uncertainty. Ambiguity. Not knowing.
Depending on the circumstance, they can be thrilling or terrifying.
Sports and athletics are about challenging ourselves without any guarantees of an outcome. We practice, we prepare, and we play all the while hoping to do our best in competition. Will we succeed?
We cheer for our favorite teams, sometimes quite passionately, hoping to have that feeling of success. For us Canuck fans, playoff runs have a way of uniting the city in a very palpable way. Losing Lord Stanley’s cup in game sevens (first against the Rangers and then the Bruins) has unfortunately led to rioting in Vancouver. How do we deal with disappointment?
Sometimes the stakes are much higher: like when we are waiting to hear back from the doctor about a medical concern. How can we possibly function “normally” while waiting to hear the result of the biopsy? Uncertainty can bring us to our knees.
In marriages and relationships, couples may struggle to manage their feelings about the way their partner is behaving. Not knowing what our partner is thinking, feeling, and/or doing can be too much to handle for some.
Everyday is chock full of potential uncertainties ranging from the critical to the benign. Our ability to “manage” the unknown goes a long way in terms of our mental well being and functioning.
When we are not managing uncertainty well, we often employ one of two dysfunctional coping mechanisms: rigidity or chaos. Rigidity can be thought of as trying to over-control one’s circumstances while chaos is its opposite – being / thinking / feeling out of control. The middle ground between the two, the healthier option, is flexibility and resiliency.
Learning to develop and strengthen one’s flexibility and resiliency is possible through guidance and hard work. (More on this later, but if you are interested check out Dan Siegel’s thoughts around Mindsight.)
So in honour of flexibility and managing uncertainty, I want to pay tribute to our local stars Miranda and Jeanny. As Grade 12 students at Magee Secondary, they conducted experiments, with the help of some kind folks at UBC, and were able to identify local bacteria capable of breaking down plastic. Their story is wonderful and definitely worth watching. You can view it here: on.ted.com/prKj and be one of close to 1 million people over the past year who have been inspired by their flexibility and courage. Well done ladies!
Jeff Ross, MA RCC
Jeff is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) and does couples counselling and individual counselling in Vancouver, BC. His passions include family, therapy, education, athletics and coaching.
If you have a comment or question about this post or any other, please feel free to join the discussion or send him a private and confidential email. Let us know what Resonates with you!